Understanding Your Stoma: Colostomy

A colostomy is a type of stoma surgery. Explore facts about colostomy surgery and why you may need it.


Learn about colostomy surgery.

Every year, thousands of people undergo stoma surgery. The need for surgery can be a result of bowel disease, an accident, or a congenital disability, and can sometimes be a life-saving procedure. Let’s explore facts about having a stoma and why someone may need colostomy surgery. 

What is a stoma?

Did you know that “stoma” is a Greek word that means “an opening into or out of the body”?

In medicine, a stoma is a term used to describe an opening on your abdomen where a section or piece of bowel is surgically brought through the abdominal wall. For those who have had colostomy or ileostomy surgery, faeces pass through the stoma. For those who have had urostomy surgery, urine passes through the stoma. In the case of a colostomy or ileostomy, stomas can be temporary or permanent, depending on the medical reason.

What is a colostomy?

A colostomy is a surgically-created opening in the large bowel. A small piece of bowel is brought through the abdominal wall and sutured to the skin. A colostomy can be formed from almost any part of the large bowel, although the most common sections used are the sigmoid and transverse colons. The exact position depends on the medical reason for the surgery.

A colostomy diverts the faecal flow. The output, volume, and consistency vary in each case and depend in part on the location of the stoma within the colon. A colostomy pouch collects the stool from the colon.

Reasons for having a colostomy

Several different diseases and conditions can result in colostomy surgery. Some of the problems that may lead to this type of surgery include:

  • Cancer 
  • Diverticulitis
  • Trauma/Perforation
  • Severe constipation
  • Damage after radiation treatment

Your healthcare team is there to help

Your doctor and stoma care nurse have likely discussed details of your surgery already. You will probably have questions along the way, so it is a good idea to write them down in a notebook or stoma diary. That way you will not forget to ask them when attending appointments with your doctor, stoma care nurse, or other healthcare professional.